RECORD: Groom, H. 1844. Pelargoniums. Gardeners' Chronicle no. 36 (7 September): 605.

REVISION HISTORY: Scanned by John van Wyhe, transcribed (single key) by AEL Data 8.2008. RN1

[page] 605

Pelargoniums.—I have had some of my plants change on the edges of the leaves like the inclosed, giving the plant the appearance of a variegated sort. The leaves appear quite healthy, with a regular pale border, which is principally confined to the old leaves. The only thing I can suppose it to arise from is, that some time since I had the Pelargoniums watered with sulphate of ammonia, which had been exposed to the air for some considerable time, and had become quite fluid; and it is possible that it might have been partially decomposed, and a free acid (sulphuric) left, which we know has the power of bleaching vegetable colours.—H. Groom. [This is a curious case. The leaves have a pale border, about ¼ inch deep, as regularly limited as if it were really a permanent variegation.]

The Robin and Hedge-Sparrow.—It is my misfortune to live in a large town, so that, when at home, I see none of the feathered race except that bold, impudent, sooty, but withal comical fellow the house-sparrow. My small garden is some half mile off in the suburbs, and I do all in my power to induce the birds to frequent it, through, as an incessant warfare is kept up against them by every "idle apprentice" who can lift a gun, they are far from numerous. I formed this garden in the winter of 1836, and immediately a robin took up his quarters with me in the greenhouse, going out during the day, and returning at night to his roost in some of the shrubs therein. I was at first puzzled to find out how he got in, till I noticed that a triangular piece of glass had fallen out of one of the small panes in the roof, which are three inches broad, and saw him enter by alighting on the edge of the pane below, stoop his head, hop through the hole, and expanding his wings fly to his roost. Of course he could not get out by that opening, and therefore on entering the house every morning I gave him the option of making his exit for the day, which he generally did at once. If, however, the weather was stormy, or a keen frost or snow was on the ground, he used to return in a few minutes with all his feathers standing on end, and very intelligibly, though mutely, beg for admittance to his old quarters, where, having plenty to eat and drink, he spent his time in watching my movements, or hunting about amongst the plants. In very cold weather he prefers a stove heat, and should I leave the door leading into it from the greenhouse ajar, I am sure soon to find him after me. When there he appears to enjoy himself much, he gathers his puffed out plumage tight about him, and looks as he does in summer-time. His large, beautiful, intelligent black eye (only equalled by that of the nightingale) is in constant watch of my motions from his usual perch upon the suspended orchidaceæ, or the rods intersecting the roof from which they are hung. In this manner he has passed every winter since 1836, returning to his quarters about November, and leaving them in February or March. He has now become so tame that he feeds from my hand, and when perched thereon sometimes amuses himself by picking out any crumbs, &c., that may have lodged underneath my finger nails when preparing his food. When in the stove, the moment he sees me enter the greenhouse he flies to the door which separates them, fluttering against the glass in his attempts to reach me, and as soon as I open the door, alighting on my hand, seems grievously disappointed if there is nothing eatable in it, although he may have plenty of food within reach. In summer he and his mate build their nest close by, and are very familiar, though they will not come to the hand. Another pair have built twice with me this season in the same mouse's hole in an old hedge which I retain in my garden, and allow any of the family to approach close to them without being alarmed, popping out their heads in reply to the challenge of a whistle to them. So tame are my young robins, that during summer and autumn it positively requires that one watch their movements to avoid injuring them when hoeing and raking, so closely do they come about one: and it is no uncommon thing for my sisters, when working amongst their flowers, to have three or four of these youngsters in constant attendance during a whole morning. The hedge-sparrow is another of my especial favourites, for I consider it the most affectionate of birds, neither yielding to the dove or the love bird in this respect. They always go in pairs, and having once taken each other "for better for worse," never separate, and seem unhappy when out of each other's sight even for a moment. They are most inoffensive, subsisting chiefly on insects and their larvæ, and ought to be kindly treated by every gardener. Two pair of them seem to consider my garden their home, as they remain with me summer and winter, building in the shrubs, and in cold weather keeping about the open sheds, &c., and coming regularly to be fed. I often stand and watch their movements upon the lawn, which they hunt over in search of insects, in that half-hop, half-flight, so characteristic of this bird, always within a yard or two of each other, and keeping up their low twittering note. Should one of them happen to get out of the other's sight, the moment it is missed you hear the call of its partner, and can see how distressed it is at its absence, whilst the well-known reply, and the delight on their meeting, almost invariably elicits the song of the male. "Bless their kind hearts!" say I, with Mr. Waterton, the quotation from whose delightful work in your last has induced me to send you this.—Pons Ælii.

Wasps and Bees.—I have tried Professor Henslow's method of destroying wasps, and found it to answer admirably. I put a small quantity of spirits of turpentine into a bottle, and at night, when the wasps were all at home, the bottle was inserted in the mouth of the nest; a spadeful or two of puddled earth was put over this, about a foot in thickness, in order to make the work secure. My man, who had never employed anything but gunpowder and brimstone for this purpose, was doubtful about success. In twenty-four hours, however, all the straggling wasps having disappeared, the nest was opened, and all were quite dead. My man said they would come to life again if he did not smash them with the spade; but before doing so he took out about a dozen of the white waxy looking sealed up bags, containing the young embryo wasps; these were wrapt in paper and taken home; in a day or two the paper was opened, when some of the bags had been converted into mature wasps, others appeared as large moveable maggots, and some were the same as when first taken out of the cells. I have a hive of bees not far from the spot where the wasps' nest was found, and I had noticed wasps about the hive. I have watched them go into it; the bees did not appear to resist their entrance, nor did I see any symptoms of fighting. I diminished the entrance of the hives to two small holes, which are only capable of allowing one bee to go through at once, and since that alteration a larger number of bees are generally about these holes. This morning I did not see one wasp enter the hive; they came and flew about, went once or twice near the entrance, and flew away. Will any bee-keeper inform me whether or not the destruction of bees is the consequence of wasps entering the hive, or whether robbery would satisfy the intruders? whether or not the bees would fight them after they had entered the hive? and whether or not the diminished entrance will do any injury to the bees?—Jasper Stokes, Birmingham.

Gray Parrot.—I have one of this species which once suffered in the same way as a "Constant Reader's," but is now in perfect health; the cause, I doubt not, was the want of water. My pet is thus managed:—As soon as convenient after breakfast, the door of the cage is opened, and Miss Polly then mounts to the top of her cage, and there expands her wings, gives them a good shaking, and gets rid of a great deal of white dust, which, I doubt not, is dried skin. While she is thus employed her cage is thoroughly cleaned out, the bottom strewed with sifted gravel and about a tablespoonful of Hemp-seed put into one side of her tin, and her cup filled with fresh water; bread or toast is soaked for a minute or two, but not made pappy, and then given to her; at dinner, or luncheon, she has a bit of meat or a bone not closely picked, but all fat or butter must be carefully removed from it; if we have a milk pudding she has her share; at tea the toast is again prepared, but in no case is more given than the bird can consume. A cup of clean spring water always stands in the bottom of the cage; but if a "Constant Reader's" polly is as mischievous as mine, it had better be fastened to the wires; my bird hangs in a large porch furnished with flowers, and more than once I have received the contents of the cup on my head or back. When moulting, a Clove or two should be put in the water, and by way of a bonne bouche, she has from time to time a bit of captain's biscuit. Parsley must be carefully withheld—it is most injurious to parrots. With the above treatment no bird can be in better health, more lively, or in better plumage. The "Constant Reader's" parrot should have as much air as possible on fine days, and as much liberty on the top of her cage as convenient, when in the house.—X.——Miss Kenworthy, of No. 3, Russell-street, Liverpool, is so obliging as to say that, if a "Constant Reader" will send her his address, she will be most happy to give him such information as will effectually cure his bird, and restore its Plumage.

Bees'-Eggs.—At p. 572, "A Lover of Truth" says—"As the queen knows when she is to lay a drone or male egg, in what way is that knowledge acquired?" Again, he asks—"Does one ovary contain male eggs only; or are they to be found in every ovary?" According to Hunter, the eggs are not contained in ovaries, but in twelve small ducts; but it is hard to say how the male and female eggs are situated. I shall, however, hazard an opinion respecting their being deposited in the cells. The queen bees differ from other insects that lay their eggs only at certain times, and that have the male and female eggs mixed together; if the season permitted, she would lay eggs to produce working bees during the whole year, and those to bring forth drones only at certain periods. Now the latter may be situated in the duct or ducts, so that they can only exist at certain periods, and the insects know of course by instinct, the proper cells for their production. It may be worthy of remark that after the queen bee has layed drones' eggs and a few to produce queens, she lays only workers' eggs; while in autumn, others of her race, such as humble bees, wasps, and hornets, rear none except drones and queens, especially the yellow pests, who often shave off the workers' cells from the upper combs as materials for forming queens' cells below. Drones are reared in cells of the same size; all this is quite in accordance with the manner in which they increase their species. In reply to the query respecting difference between the size of male and common eggs, I may state that I have fancied that the former were a shade larger; but the exact age of the eggs ought to be known, for they of course swell before the larvæ burst them. "A Lover of Truth" mentions the number of drones' eggs his queen bee lays, and also that of workers' eggs, which he says was 1000 daily for three successive months. This not only exceeds Huber's number—200 daily—but also Schirach's highest number, which is 100,000 in a season.—J. Wighton.

Flower Gardens.—I beg to confirm "E. C.'s" statement (p.525) respecting the appearance of these. On visiting Marston Rectory I was delighted with the brilliant display in the flower garden; the beds, both with regard to flowers and foliage, were all that could be desired, and I was informed that they have been equally beautiful for four months past. This, taking into consideration the bleak situation of the garden, and very bad soil of which it is composed, reflects the greatest credit on Mr. Melville, who is gardener there. The other gardens alluded to by "E. C." are, and have been, the very acme of perfection. The beds are planted with the same kinds of plants that are generally to be met with in good gardens.—A. A.

Strawberries and Asparagus.—I beg to offer a few remarks upon the statement of Mr. Bree, of Stow-market, respecting the culture of these plants. Of Strawberries he says, that "he had such a capital crop, because he did not cut off the leaves." The discussion which took place last year about cutting off Strawberry leaves, induced me to adopt the following system by way of experiment:—Of one Strawberry bed I cut the leaves all off one half, and the other half I did nothing to; I cannot, however, speak in praise of the latter half: having other two beds both in the same aspect, I was anxious to learn from which of the two I could obtain the most fruit. From one bed I cut all the leaves and manured it immediately. From the other I cut all the runners, and left the stools entire, and then manured it, which I could easily do, as I plant my Strawberry rows 2 feet apart. The bed that I thus treated was but one year old; the other bed was three years old — that from which I cut all the leaves. I can vouch that I had quite as many Strawberries from the old bed, as I had from the new one: this I did not expect; both the beds were of the same sort, viz. Elton Pine. Have any of your readers made a similar experiment? With regard to Asparagus, Mr. Bree goes on to say, that "J. Squinell killed all his Asparagus by cutting off the tops in June." This I have no doubt was the result; but as was stated at p. 317, of this year, I imagine that salt should only be applied when the plants are in full growth. I consider that Mr. Bree practised nearly as dangerous a system as his friend "Y. S," in applying salt at the time when the roots were in a state of rest. I should say that salt would be applied with more advantage in spring — say in the month of March; put it on immediately after the beds are dressed. If the weather is dry, water the beds well, previous to putting on the salt, and then 2½ lbs. of salt to the square yard might be used, which I have no doubt would give great satisfaction.—Villagius.

Vines.—I have two vineries; No. 1 has the canes trained to the rafters, one only to each. This house is heated with hot water in iron pipes, and has besides about eight cart-loads of tan in it. In No. 2, the Vines are trained horizontally, the whole length of the house (about 20 feet); this house is also heated with the same sized pipes, but no tan is used in it. Now it so happens that this house has matured its produce better, in every respect, than the house with the tan. From what cause has this arisen? Was it the horizontal mode of training which caused it, or was there too much moisture in the tan to allow the Grapes to colour, from excessive evaporation. Heat and air were allowed to both houses in nearly the same degree. Perhaps I ought to mention that the tanless house is situated considerably higher than No. 1, to reach which the Vines are carried a greater distance

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Citation: John van Wyhe, editor. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (

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